Pioneering Study Offers Hope For Dogs With Heart Disease

A major international study published online  in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine has for the first time, revealed a clear survival benefit associated with the administration of a drug in the preclinical phase of a common canine heart disease.

The global PROTECT study*, carried out between 2006 and 2011 by a team of researchers including Professor Adrian Boswood from the Royal Veterinary College, found that the drug Pimobendan (VETMEDIN™; Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health) administered to Doberman Pinschers with preclinical dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) delays the onset of heart failure or sudden death, and brings about a significant increase in overall survival time.

DCM is the most common cause of heart failure in large breed dogs, such as Dobermans. The prevalence of DCM in Dobermans increases with age, and 25 – 50 percent of them develop DCM during their lifetimes. The Researchers believe that these results may have beneficial implications in dogs of other breeds with similar manifestations of preclinical DCM.

Dr Nuala Summerfield led the project, working alongside veterinary cardiologists from ten centres – five in the United Kingdom, four in the United States and one in Canada – including Professor Boswood. The team screened approximately 1,000 dogs by recruiting client-owned Dobermans between four and nine years old.

Professor Adrian Boswood, the RVC researcher integrally involved in the monitoring and analysis of the project, said: “This high-quality and groundbreaking PROTECT research is the first veterinary cardiology study to demonstrate the clear benefit of administering a drug to patients with DCM in the pre-clinical phase.”

“It is exciting to be able to provide practitioners with a new treatment for dogs that are diagnosed with DCM, and owners with the opportunity to spend more time with their dog before they develop clinical signs and heart failure. We also hope that our findings will have wider benefits for all dogs diagnosed with DCM in the early stages of the disease.”

The clinical stage of DCM is typically relatively short and is characterized by signs of congestive heart failure (CHF). Once CHF develops, survival times in this breed are only two – four months with at least a 90-percent mortality rate after one year. For some dogs with this condition the first sign they show is sudden death.

One of the primary requirements for the administration of any medication, particularly in the preclinical setting, is that it is safe. This study collected data on suspected adverse drug reactions (SADRs) and revealed no clinically relevant difference in the frequency or severity of SADRs between the two treatment groups, thereby providing additional evidence of the safety of pimobendan in this cohort of dogs.

The investigators designed PROTECT as a randomised, blinded, placebo-controlled, multi-centre study and data was independently reviewed and analysed.

*Pimobendan Randomised Occult DCM Trial to Evaluate Clinical symptoms and Time to heart failure

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